Bihn had immigrated to America from Bavaria with his mother and several brothers and sisters in 1845. A few years later he worked as a clerk at Alcott, Horton & Co., a dry-goods store in Cleveland. While working, he met Bishop Amadeus Rappe and told him that he wished to be a priest. Bishop Rappe encouraged him, and after several years Bihn had saved enough money to enter the seminary.
Bihn's grave at St. Francis in Tiffin
Rev. Seraphin Bauer, a classmate of Fr. Bihn, eulogized him as follows:
“When Joseph Louis Bihn, at the impulse of the Holy Spirit, bade farewell to the counter in the dry-goods store at Cleveland, he was scarcely able to read and write English though already 30 years of age. Despite this fact, he began his studies A.D. 1852 with truly apostolic courage…
His task resembled that of the decrepit old man we read of who had to clear a large tract of woods, yet he shunned not the burden but on the contrary, like St. Ignatius Loyola he attended school at a similar age, for the purpose of mastering a difficult foreign language and the science of sciences – theology.
Many a time I admired his courage, his close application, and his iron-clad endurance and perseverance, and now that I see his life’s work before me I am still more astounded …”